Francis Drake
Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake lived and worked during a time when Spain was at war with its bordering nations. He was born sometime in the years between 1540 and 1541(birth records did not exist at this time). Although this lack of record keeping might seem a bit unusual in our time such a record for them was insignificant. Francis hailed from Devonshire, England and was raised by a farmer. On those days, farming could sustain a family but it could not often bring riches alone and it did not bring prestige and respect of the royal family, but success at high seas did. Drake may have dreamed his future of owning and captaining a ship as a young boy. In his spare time, he tagged along with relatives on their ships. Whenever they sailed, the crew learned the art of piracy as they targeted merchant ships traveling the sea trade routes. Francis Drake became famous as a world renown ocean navigator and land explorer but before all that he was a real pirate.

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Slave Trade 1500s

At the completion of his apprenticeship, young Francis commanded his first ship called the Judith. He hired a cousin to assist in the mission to the continent of Africa to participate in the slave trade. After acquiring slaves, they sailed for New Spain with the goal of acquiring funds by selling captives to settlers there. The slave trade was Illegal in Spain at the time and Francis along with some of his crew were soon arrested and held for those crimes. Drake vowed revenge upon the Spanish crown from that point on.

After returning to England, he received a notice from Queen Elizabeth I to take his piracy to a new level. She permitted him to obtain a privateer license. This license enabled him to use his piracy to raid, plunder and steal property that belonged to Spain. It was an unofficial war on King Phillip whom Queen Elizabeth I despised. Soon after Drake embarked upon his fist mission to Nombre De Dios, a stop in Panama for Spanish ships full of silver and gold returning from Peru. Unfortunately, Francis did not acquire much success as the Spaniards battled hard against Drake, his fleet, and ships. To compensate for this instead of high seas piracy Drake and his men raided Spanish settlements and robbed them of their precious metals instead.

For the remainder of Francis Drake’s life, he remained a pirate. Although he is known popularly for his success at being the first to circumvent the globe and as a successful maritime and land explorer he should also be remembered as a pirate and as someone who participated in the slave trade. Piracy at the time was a normal way of life and considered a divine right. Even though today we understand the piracy of the 16th century to be criminal, the expeditions conducted and led by Francis remind us how folks in his time viewed the world and the people around them.